The 5 Steps to Engage People in KPIs

by Stacey Barr |

When we want people to understand and adopt a new idea, often we rush in, guns blazing, and overwhelm them with too much “how to”, too soon. We might be excited about the new idea, but they will be wary. Another band wagon, another fad, another distraction from their “real work”. So we need a gentler approach that starts from where they are, not where we are.


When I introduce people to PuMP for the first time, I don’t teach them the eight steps of PuMP. I don’t even talk about PuMP. The approach I’ve found that works a treat, is less about educating them, and more about helping them see a new choice about measuring performance.

There are 5 steps to how I do this:

STEP 1: Set the context of performance measurement.

I don’t just randomly go up to people and try to engage them in performance measurement. The people I’m taking through these 5 steps are people who have come to me with a bigger question like one of these:

  • We need measures, how do we create them?
  • We have goals, how do we achieve them?
  • Everyone complains about our performance, how do we improve it?

The conversation starts by sharing my context for performance measurement, because there are different contexts. Mine is that measuring performance is about focusing on what matters most, getting objective feedback about what matters most, and finding leverage to improve what matters most. I call this the Focus, Feedback, Fulcrum context.

Setting the context helps build a shared and worthy vision to strive for.

STEP 2: Understand their struggles with measurement.

Someone wise once said to me we should ‘seek first to understand, then to be understood’. Before I share any of my knowledge about performance measurement, I like to ask people about their experience with it.

I ask them the question: what are your biggest struggles with performance measurement? And we capture their answers in a mind map. What I’m doing here, is organising their struggles into related groupings in the mind map. This helps them see their struggles more clearly, and they start seeing a pattern in the struggles too.

Understanding their struggles helps them see the usefulness of what you want to share with them.

STEP 3: Give some clarity to their struggles.

Over the last 20 years or more, my research keeps showing that our struggles with performance measurement are the same, the world over. And when there is a common set of problems, usually it means there is a common set of causes.

These causes are called the bad KPI habits, and for each group of struggles from Step 2, I share the main bad habit that causes it. For example, the main cause of the struggle of having immeasurable goals is the bad habit of using weasel words. These bad habits are a revelation to most people, and they profoundly agree with them.

Clarifying the causes of their struggles gives them some hope that things can change for the better.

STEP 4: Segue to a solution to those struggles.

The solution to the struggles with measuring performance should fix the causes. Right now, they will likely be wondering what they should do instead of those bad habits. And this is the point when you can talk about your solution.

PuMP is the solution I offer for solving performance measurement struggles and reaching the vision of Focus, Feedback, Fulcrum. That’s because I know it fixes those bad KPI habits. It was designed to fix them, after all. So now I share with them the eight steps of PuMP, each one suggesting what we do instead of the corresponding bad KPI habit.

The struggles and causes provide a framework to attach your suggested change to, so it has immediate meaning and relevance.

STEP 5: Invite them to try it out.

We don’t ask for a full commitment to implement a new idea, like PuMP. We invite them to test it out on a small scale first. I call this the PuMP Pilot, and usually it means choosing a single goal and using PuMP to measure it and improve it. And most of the time, they accept the invitation!

Inviting people to try something out – and make the decision about what to try it out on – gives them ownership. And ownership leads to engagement.

You can see these 5 steps in action, in a video on my website: // Even if you’ve watched this video before, watch it again to see how these steps work, so you can improve the way you engage people in your new ideas, whether it’s about performance measurement or anything else.


How have you tried to engage your colleagues in better measurement? What worked? What didn’t work?


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  1. David says:

    The critical element of getting people’s participation is that the KPIs are of the delivery system, not them. Their performance is a separate issue, but management must know how the system is running so as to be able to improve it and know where to invest in such improvements.

  2. Tom G says:

    This is wonderful. THank you for another breath of fresh organizational air.

    If we do not have POSITIONAL AUTHORITY to implement(and sometimes when we do) an APPROACH that upgrades the people, not the measures is needed. In most cases, good measures or methods will be an effect of the understanding of the people being improved. In rare cases, a person of understanding may be in charge and be able to mentor though the example of well developed processes and measures. THe issue here is that when the leader leaves, typically the understanding departs as well and things revert to a less than optimal state leaving the crew knowing that something vital has changed but not being able to fully articulate what and why.

    Long POST – thanks for your time and attention – this is a subject very Near to my core.

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